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  Drugs in the Olympics
Updated 22 October 2003, 14.47
Alain Baxter arriving at a news conference

PSHE 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Alcohol, drugs and tobacco

British skier Alain Baxter has been stripped of his Olympic bronze medal after failing a drugs test. He was found to have methamphetamine in his body during the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Games.

Students discuss the issues raised by Olympic drug cheating and the points made by the International Olympic Committee's former president.

Learning aims

  • Learn the facts about Olympic drug cheating.

  • Discuss the issues surrounding drug use in the Olympics.
Read the story

Ask the class:

  • Why should Alain Baxter have had his medal taken away?

  • How reliable do you think drug tests are?

  • If Alain Baxter took the banned drug by mistake, would that change things?

Main activity
To widen the discussion, read aloud the following statement from Juan Antonio Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee:

"Doping is cheating. Doping is akin to death. Death physiologically, by profoundly altering, sometimes irreversibly, normal processes through unjustified manipulations.

"Death physically, as certain tragic cases in recent years have shown. But also death spiritually and intellectually, by agreeing to cheat and conceal one's capabilities by recognising one's incapacity or unwillingness to accept oneself, or to transcend one's limits.

"And finally death morally, by excluding oneself de facto from the rules of conduct required by all human society."

Ask the class:

  • How far do you agree with former president Samaranch in that "doping is akin to death"?

  • Are Olympic drug cheats cheating against the other competitors or themselves?

  • Could you live with your conscience if drugs helped you to win at something?
Most drugs that athletes would be tempted to take help with building muscle (see the Teachers' Background below for more information on their effects).

However, Beta blockers have a calming effect and diuretics help with weight loss. These effects would give an unfair advantage with which sports?

Students show their understanding by writing their own reasons why athletes should not take drugs to improve their performance.

Extension activity
When someone is caught enhancing their performance by taking drugs, what should the penalty be?

Recap on the main teaching points and see if students can reach a consensus over what the penalties should be for drug cheats.

Teachers' Background

Drugs at Salt Lake 2002:

  • Alain Baxter tested positive for methamphetamine, an addictive stimulant which affects the central nervous system. The class B controlled drug is a synthetic substance closely related to amphetamine.

  • Two gold medal winners, cross-country skiers Larissa Lazutina and Johann Muehlegg, tested positive for the drug darbepoetin in Salt Lake 2002.

  • Before the competition, tests were carried out on 3,639 athletes from all sports from more than 75 countries over the past 10 months.
Classes of drugs used:
  • Stimulants - these act directly on the athlete's nervous system to speed up parts of their brain and body. This can improve reaction time and slow fatigue.

  • Narcotic analgesics - these are very strong pain killers. Athletes take them to enable them to train and compete despite pain and injury.

  • Anabolic agents - these are a natural or artificial version of substances such as the hormone testosterone, which makes the athlete's muscles grow larger, and can speed recovery from hard training.

  • Beta blockers - A beta blocker will stop an athlete from trembling, reduce their blood pressure, slow their heart rate and have a calming effect.

  • Diuretics - these will increase the amount of urine that athletes pass from their bodies causing dehydration. Therefore, they could be used by athletes in sports with weight divisions, who have difficulty keeping their weight down to qualify.

  • Peptide hormones and analogues - these can help the body to grow muscle and determine height. Growth hormones can encourage muscle growth and develop speed and strength.

For all links and resources click at top right.

More InfoBORDER=0
SportBritish Olympic skier stripped of medal


BBC Links
BBC News: What is methamphetamine?


Web Links
Salt Lake 2002
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